A council wants two schools to open their sports facilities up for public use at the end of the school day in return for lifting restrictions that prevent younger pupils from using a new building.
The Parker E-Act Academy, which teaches pupils aged between 11 and 18, announced in June it would be taking over a building that once belonged to the now-defunct Daventry UTC at the start of this school year.
However, it soon emerged that a pre-existing lease on the £9.4 million building explicitly stated it should be used for teaching 14- to 19-year-olds, preventing younger pupils from accessing the state-of-the-art facilities.
The council claimed last week that E-Act had known about the issue since May but had not attempted to negotiate until last month.
However, E-Act disputes this, and said it had been asking Daventry district council to remove the restriction since May, but could not fulfil the council’s demand for full after-hours control of the sport facilities at Parker and the nearby all-through academy Danetre and Southbrook Learning Village, citing safeguarding issues among others.
The council confirmed it wants community access to sport facilities in an attempt to claw back some of the money it invested into the UTC.
Both sides have accused each other of only restarting negotiations since a negative story appeared on the issue in the local newspaper.
As a charitable organisation we simply cannot hand over our assets to a third party
“Due to the council’s demands, which included handing over full control and access to both Daventry E-Act academies’ facilities as soon as the academy day ended, agreement has not been possible given the adverse impact that this would have on our ability to deliver positive educational outcomes for our pupils, the safeguarding issues that this arrangement would raise and the fact that as a charitable organisation we simply cannot hand over our assets to a third party,” said an E-Act spokesperson. “Our pupils must have priority use of their academy facilities.
“Consequently the lease was assigned to E-Act on current terms by the ESFA, and we continue to operate the building effectively within the terms of the lease, using the space primarily for 14- to 19-year-olds.
“It was the chief executive’s office at Daventry district council that approached E-Act for a meeting after recent publicity in September, to which we promptly agreed.”
E-Act insisted it had put forward “reasonable proposals” for the next meeting and that no other UTC in the country had such age restrictions in place.
Daventry district council’s business manager, Simon Bowers, disputed the trust’s claims.
“The council was notified by the ESFA in April that it was proposing to assign the UTC lease from the UTC trust to E-Act, so the Parker Academy could use the building in place of an existing building which was to be demolished,” he said.
“The council made the ESFA aware that it considered its contribution of land and money to the UTC project should be reflected in some form if the ESFA wished to change the use of the UTC site.
“From May to July there were intermittent contacts with E-Act, but in July E-Act confirmed that the existing terms of the lease would be respected and did not pursue discussion further.
“E-Act then contacted the council in early September seeking to renew discussions, having found that the 14-19 restriction was giving it some operational difficulties.
“The council engaged in those discussions and then, as agreed, made written proposals to E-Act. E-Act has responded with different proposals, and a meeting is being arranged to discuss options”